“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
The above line is from Gandalf of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” I know he’s a fictional character but Gandalf always seemed like a pretty smart dude. Plus, he had a few years under his belt.
As I’ve been passing through my fifties at a seemingly lightning pace, I’ve done a lot of reflecting. I’ve realized I’m not young anymore. Sometimes it’s tough because pulled muscles seem to take an entire presidential term to heal and it gets increasingly difficult to convince my sons that their father is a physical marvel to be feared. Some of my hair has turned gray even though I have less follicles to work with. But, for the most part, that’s ok. I’m also not all that old so my time on the back slope of middle age has been manageable.
However, the decade of the nickels has left me a little unsettled. I’ve realized that the benefit of time to accumulate retirement savings has shortened considerably. Youthful plans of building a business are waning and the thought of taking another elk hunting trip in the mountains seems as realistic as inventing the flying car. Most significantly, though, I sometimes feel as though the time has passed to dream dreams and pursue passions.
But then I stop. You see, we humans seem to be very skilled at squashing dreams in ourselves. After all, dreams and passions are silly. They’re not realistic. It’s one thing for children to have all sorts of fanciful thoughts that grown ups indulge for a period of time. For instance, when I was a young boy fishing for northerns on lazy summer days, I was going to be a Major League Baseball player. Or an astronaut. Or both. But as I grew older, I realized the folly of my youth and turned my attention to more grown up things.
So I learned how to be serious and grumpy, like a good grown up should be. I learned that childhood dreams and passions should be replaced with goals. And the goals needed to be replaced with money. And the money needed to be replaced with stuff. Then someday, I’d have to get rid of the stuff. But at least I wouldn’t have those silly childhood dreams to get in the way.
Then, I realized that in the process of proper adult thinking, I had lost something that can never be replaced. Time. Yet, reflecting on lost time is, itself, a poor way to spend my present or my future. I am precisely the age I am now and I have precisely the same number of days allotted to walk this earth, whether I use those days well or whether I fritter them away by pining over opportunities missed to work on my batting skills or go to astronaut school or accumulate more wealth. So I’ve decided to go with Gandalf’s thinking. I’ll just decide what to do with the time that is given me, from this point on.
And while past time can never be reclaimed, old passions might still be possible or new dreams may be dream-able. So I think I’ll spend some time being passionate about fishing for a northern with a nasty disposition and a weakness for flashing lures. Or maybe I’ll write a book. Or look for ways to volunteer to help others. I have precisely the right amount of time and just enough passion to do those things.
Editor’s Note: We look forward to making “Inspirations” a regular part of the Pine City Pioneer, and invite faith leaders, community members and thoughtful readers to take part and share their ideas in this space. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mike at 320-629-6771.